As I wait for my flight from Indianapolis back to Washington by way of Chicago, I have quite a lot of overdue Redskins material to share from Super Bowl week.
The 2011 Redskins may be defined by their 5-11 record, but there were many tributes to the Redskins throughout the week, perhaps none greater than the one paid to Redskins patriarch London Fletcher. On Saturday morning, Fletcher was bestowed with the Bart Starr award at the NFL sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast.
I’ve written extensively about London Fletcher in recent weeks, and rightly so. Fletcher is the face of the defense–the face of the franchise–and a super star on and off the field. If you aren’t touched by Fletcher’s defensive dominance on Sunday, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel his community presence on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
Unlike other athletes that shirk their civic platform, Fletcher has made it a concerted effort to be a man of the fans, and he spoke on that in his acceptance speech, Saturday morning:
Many years ago, NBA star Charles Barkley famously told TV cameras that he “was not a role model.” In the video, Barkely makes a fair point that he isn’t paid to be a role model, he’s paid to “wreak havoc on the court.”
Wreaking defensive havoc is something that the two men have in common, but being a force off the field is at least as important. Instead of shying away the natural attraction that the community has to its entertainers, Fletcher has actively pursued the responsibility that it takes to be a role model.
After watching Fletcher’s career span most of my life, I’m struck most by his humility and sincerity. Instead of demanding the attention that his success warrants, he simply goes about his business. Instead of doing work in the community for selfishness or self-promotion, Fletcher understands the influence of his profession and uses it for good.
With all of the dangers and pitfalls of human error, I don’t know that I recommend anyone follow any public figure as a character role model. But if there’s one guy worth your time, it would be London Fletcher, who continues to prove that heart, dedication and success can be found off the gridiron as well.
Here’s a final conversation between Fletcher and 49ers three-time Super Bowl Champion tight end Brent Jones about rage vs. faith and passion: